A lot has been written about the conundrum of Millennial job hopping… and for a good reason. According to a 15-year study conducted by the Center for American Progress, when an employee leaves it creates an economic cost that is 213% of the annual salary for that role.

As a result, organizations have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars trying to solve the problem. Words like culture, flexibility, and cause have become buzzwords to business leaders trying to stop the revolving door of their Millennial employees. And while culture and cause are definitely important, adding a ping pong table to the break room isn’t solving the problem.

The Primary Reason Millennials Quit

So if a lack of freedom or meaningful work isn’t the primary frustration for Millennials, what is?

In one word: mentoring.

According to this study from Deloitte, Millennials who leave their job within two years cite being unhappy with how their leadership skills were being developed as the primary reason. At the same time, those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not.

The study goes on to cite that creating loyalty with Millennials is primarily based on understanding and supporting their career and life ambitions. They want to be known and invested in, not just for what they can do to impact the bottom line of the company, but for the dreams and goals they have for their life. That requires a relationship.

How to Infuse Mentoring into Your Organizational Culture

So how do you go about creating a culture of mentorship to increase loyalty among Millennials? Here are a few principles to consider:

1. Develop Systems that Support It

Mentoring takes intentionality. People aren’t naturally looking to mentor other people. You can’t simply say, “we should do a better job of mentoring Millennials” without setting up systems that support it.

Creating a culture that values mentoring doesn’t have to be complicated. While some organizations create a robust mentoring program, it could be as simple as hosting a brown bag lunch once a month, or allowing older employees to leave a couple hours early to take another Millennial employee out for a drink after work.

2. Help Older Employees Realize They Have Something Valuable to Contribute

One of the primary excuses I hear from older people as to why they don’t mentor someone is because they don’t think they have any valuable wisdom to impart. That’s nonsense. Even if your career has seemed to take more ups than downs, you have a perspective that would be incredibly valuable for Millennials to know.

3. Encourage Millennials to Fail

In most cases, we learn more from our failures than our successes. But a lot of Millennials I know are afraid to take risks that might cause them to fail. Encouraging Millennials to take risks and helping them navigate through unknown situations is an incredibly valuable way to create loyalty with us. This is another reason why knowing how to provide productive criticism to Millennials is so important.

Counting the Cost…

The idea of creating a culture of mentoring might seem like another reason why managing our generation is so difficult. But I think it’s not unique to our generation. The concept of mentoring Millennials (or lack thereof) is just the latest iteration of the truth that “people leave managers, not companies.”

Infusing the concept of mentoring into your company culture is difficult work. It’s a lot more difficult than buying a Nespresso machine for the office. It’s far easier for a leader to say, “Millennials just need to get over it, show up to work and do their job.”

However, mentoring Millennials not only improves retention in the short run. There’s something bigger to it. While you might start investing in Millennials to prevent the short term turnover costs, what you might find is that doing so creates a lifelong impact on the people you lead. And that kind of legacy is a lot more valuable than the 213% you save.

why millennials quit